For someone to understand a building fully, one must begin with the history in which it was derived from. The Art Institute of Chicago was initially located in Grant Park for more than 100 years. One will find very interesting that much if not all the land in which the museum sits upon has been man made over time. The Art Institute’s building located on Michigan Avenue was developed on land that was once turned to rubble due to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
During the 1890’s more parks were being created east of an existing railway track that ran ehind the museums building built in 1893, however the property was soon littered with stables, squatters’ shacks, garbage, and debris . 1 Chicago based architect Daniel Burnham was assigned the task to develop a plan for the city in 1906. He addressed problems ranging from transportation issues to street issues and also urban slum removal. furthermore he wanted 1 ? Turner, J. , Goldberger, P. , Rosa, J. , Cuno, J. B. , Goldberger, P. , Warchol, P.. . Warchol, P. (2009).
The modern wing: Renzo piano and the art institute of chicago(1st ed. ). Chicago;New Haven;: Art Institute of Chicago. ecreational development of the lakefront with a series of parks and ponds expanding from Jackson Park on the south side to Wilmette, beyond Chicago to the north. 2 The main central point of Burnham’s plan was his idea of Grant Park. Daniel Burnham believed this to be the cultural hub of the city, Including strategically laid out buildings such as the Field Museum in the middle, the Chicago public library to be placed to the south, and the Art Institute developed on the north side.
However Burnham’s Center City park plan would not be developed in part because of successful lawsuits filed by Montgomery Ward. These lawsuits requested the removal of structures in the park and denied access of the construction of new buildings above grade. There were some exceptions though, The Art Institute which began construction of the Michigan Avenue building in 1891. Also the Chicago Public Library began its construction in 1891 and the Field Museum also opened in 1921. The park was nearly completed in the 1920’s but for only a few parcels of land north of Monroe Street and east and west of Columbus Drive.
A project called lake front gardens was put into place in 1977, with the intention to be designed by 1978 and built by 1980. It never generated enough supporters and after decades of struggle the plan to finish Grant Park fell apart. In 1989, Mayor Richard M. Daley found the unfinished park as a huge challenge. He saw it as the ideal city project. He approached the architecture firm of S. O. M. to develop the 2 ? Turner, J. , Goldberger, P. , Rosa, J. , Cuno, J. B. , Goldberger, P. , Warchol, P.. . Warchol, P. (2009).
The modern wing: Renzo piano and the art institute of chicago(1st ed. ). Chicago;New Haven;: Art Institute of Chicago. designs and put into place the lakefront millennium project to finish the work of now Millennium Park. In the midst of what was going on north of Monroe Street changes were also taking place to south with the Art Institute of Chicago. Architect Thomas Beeby designed an addition in 1988 for the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Building, which was located east of the railway tracks and south of Gunsaulus Hall.
Plans were also beginning to take place for a new wing addition to house the important and poorly presented collections of modern and contemporary art; the arts of Africa and Pre- Columbian America, India, Himalayas, and Southeast Asia. James Wood reached out to architecture firm S. O. M. to lay out the plans for the new additions of the art institute and also presented the project to the well known architect Renzo Piano. Though very interested in the project, Piano believed the addition needed to be part of a larger, more integrated plan for the entire museum site.
A month after his visit to the site, Piano wrote to director Wood that he was “very pleased to learn that you see the necessity of a general concept design for the entire museum area. I still believe, following my visit and our conversations that you need to establish a general vision at the urban scale (as well as, of ourse, at the functional and cultural level). you need to give ‘unity’ to the entire complex in the general diversity so well expressing the museums growth and history.
My feeling is that by solving the connection across the railways, you need a Piazza or a Courtyard that may become a self-orienting center of gravity. “3 Piano believed there was the opportunity for more than just 3 ? Turner, J. , Goldberger, P. , Rosa, J. , Cuno, J. B. , Goldberger, P. , Warchol, P.. . Warchol, P. (2009). The modern wing: Renzo piano and the art institute of chicago(1st ed. ). Chicago;New Haven;: Art Institute of Chicago. additional galleries. He strongly explored the idea of giving visitors a satisfying experience.
Something upon the lines of a fascinating gathering space where one could choose which gallery, lecture hall, activity space, or restaurant they desired to visit. Piano also felt strongly that the new additions south of Gunsaulus Hall jeopardized the clarity of its original 1893 Beaux-Arts plan, the museum had seemingly lost it’s clear center and parti. So over the next 10 years of planning and designing along with a 300 million dollar price tag, Renzo Piano put these ideas into action. To many people the new wing is more than just an addition to the original art institutes floor plan.
It completely reconstructs the institutes focus and identity. Piano’s design includes a new entryway, and entrance that redirects from the busy traffic filled Michigan Avenue and now directs its attention to the fully developed Millennium Park. The original plan was to extend the institute to the south in accordance with Gunsaulus Hall and over the railway system, but with the completion of Millennium Park, Piano decided to completely change the positioning of the site to accommodate the new heavily tourist ttractive park and the recent Frank Gehry designed pavilion to the north.
To accomplish this connection, Piano felt there was a need for a 620 foot long ramp system, now known today as the Nichols Bridgeway. The ramp itself spans Monroe Street where it attaches to the west pavilion of the modern wing directly to Millennium Park. Although the Bridgeway serves its purpose to connect the museum to the new popular city destination of the park, it is also one ? of Piano’s later design plans and continues to be a criticized part of a very successful museum addition. The art institute itself sits on both sides of the railway tracks.
One can see the operable railway system in motion as they ascend the Nichols Bridgeway. The tracks are also bridged by Gunsaulus Hall which was an existing structure to the site but was also renovated by Piano throughout the project. Gunsaulus Hall connects the new modern wing together with the Existing art institute buildings. As one looks down upon the steel tracks from the Nichols Bridgeway, they are reminded of Chicago’s large industrial history as well as the steel columns that uphold the Museums floating roof along with the slender shafts within the glass facade.
Some say the tracks also present a reminder of a change in the way cities are making use of cultural institutions in an era of deindustrialization. The museum placing itself within the heavily tourist attractive Millenium Park is perhaps insinuating a shift in institutional priorities. Once arriving from the Nichols Bridgeway one will find themselves upon the sculpture terrace. This is also the location of the museums restaurant. From the this position visitors are treated with a panoramic view shielded from the noise and business brought forth from the city streets below.
From here visitors are able to embellish in the beautiful sky view of Millenium Park and Gehry’s Pritzker pavilion erecting from the ground below. The amazing view of greenery and skyline leads to many visitors and tourists pulling out their cell phones or cameras to create a miniature long last image of such an experience of hovering above the world below. The rooftop terrace and restaurant are open to the public, however to get inside the museum itself one must descend down an elevator or escalator to reach the street level and pass through the Monroe Street entrance. This Entry space is more of an atrium.
The facade is one of transparency allowing the exterior to ultimately flow into the interior. Thus making the interior space of the modern wing identifiable from the park across Monroe Street creating a beautiful connection between the two separate entities. There is a sense of transparency, openness, accessibility that possibly suggests democracy, equality, and community. 4 Once inside the entrance atrium from Monroe Street the layout of the plan becomes instantly clear and a marvelous staircase protrudes out from the left and invites one up to the art galleries located in the stories above.
Also extending from the entry atrium is the main circulation spine known as the Griffin court. The Griffin court is a long limestone lined hallway connecting the two wings of the addition. The shallow vaulted glass roof that spans the entire distance has an experiential feeling of a glassed roof passageway of a 19th century Parisian arcade. The placement of the art is also similar to the Parisian style, there are temporary exhibitions on one side, photography and media on the other, along with beautiful floating staircases that allow passageway to galleries on the upper levels.
If one were to walk the full length of the hall, you will eventually reach a wide doorway that connects the old portions of the Art Institute that are that are placed in line with the Rice Building. Griffin Court acts almost as a central intersection that connects the new addition to the older buildings that originally made up the Art Institute. Although the main role of Griffin Court is to create an organizing spine for the Modern Wing, it also plays the role of the most public space for the museum in its entirety. The space is 4 ? Mills, J. C.. (2010). Piano’s Grand Opus. Log, (18), 51–58. shed with natural light and creates views to the north of Millennium Park and the City Skyline.
The space also contains Piano’s typical style of visible structure with modern detail. With this design Piano uses a cable post-and-tie system below the main roof. He uses the cables to form an unusual pattern that helps define the space. Using this structure and skin pattern Piano is able to make spaces that are light, energetic, and peaceful all at the same time. Visitors are then able to move up suspended stairs to the courts second floor mezzanine and into the east pavilion of the wing, where the painting and sculpture galleries are located.
The galleries for painting and sculpture are more discreet than the Griffin Court, but the details within remain equivalent. Every floor has rooms within that span lengthwise around 125 feet. The north end of every room is completely covered with glass. From these windows one gets a view of Millennium Park and the skyline. The gallery rooms were designed to be subdivided, so Piano created a partition system to create this effect. The reason behind doing this, is to give off the sense of continuity of each room but also to promote an enclosure within the separate galleries.